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Star Trek: The Original Series, & VR ~ The Menagerie, Part 2

Topics Covered || Plot Synopsis || Topic Technicalities || Part of Set

Topics Covered

  • Virtual Reality
  • Augmented Reality
  • Brain-Machine Interface


Sixteenth Episode
First Released for general viewing: 1967

Plot Synopsis

Beginning directly after part 1 ended, with the trial reconvening after recess, Commander Spock is facing charges for breach of general order 7, for mutiny, kidnapping commander Pike, and stealing the Enterprise. Commodore Mendez presides over the trial, attended also by Captain Kirk and Captain Christopher Pike, rendered utterly paralysed after his brainstem and eye muscles were destroyed in a ship drive accident.

Almost immediately after recap, Commodore Mendez asks Spock how he pleads to the various charges brought against him, and against his captain - for whilst Kirk was not on board, a Captain must answer for the actions of his vessel.

Spock enters a plea of guilty for all charges.

Mendez reminds Spock that Starfleet ordered no contact with Talos IV and there are to be no exceptions. Spock agrees this is true, and is sorry but he was left with no choice. He turns to Pike and says that the Keeper has taken control of the viewscreen. This means nothing to anyone else present, but he asks if Pike understands.

Pike's total body support chair, communicating directly from the nerve impulses in Pike's brain, beeps an affirmative; he does understand.

Spock explains to the court, the viewscreen will pick up where they left off before; the recording of Pike from 14 years ago had trailed off when the Talosians knocked Pike unconscious and took him away. It now resumes, as Pike regains consciousness.

Pike wakes up inside a small cell, with a forcefield along one wall. Several other species are in similar cells along a hallway beyond the forcefield. A group of the alien creatures shortly appear who discuss Pike in a coldly scientific manner, not dissimilar to a surgeon leading a group of medical students.

They make many cold-hearted scientific observations, many of which are telepathic, and refer to him as "the specimen" stating that they will soon begin "the experiment".

Pike's cell then vanishes, and in its place, one reality after another, each with Vina as the central attraction, each complete in every fine detail, a bubble of perfect reality with her at the centre.

The viewscreen clicks off after showing Vina, the human female from the planet, as an orion slave girl, dancing in a tavern.

Mendez asks why the Talosians have stopped showing their records. Spock says it is because Pike is fatigued; they will continue when he is rested. Turning to look at Pike, Mendez sees he is asleep. (A minor plot error occurs here - Pike's head is slumped forwards, whereas it should be frozen in place.)

Spock's statement of the Talosians stopping for Pike's sake makes Kirk realise that the Talosians behind this, truly care for Pike. Spock agrees with this line of thought, saying that the Talosians' desire Pike back, alive.

Mendez immediately demands that Spock explain why to him, right now. Spock simply tells him to be patient, and he will see for himself why this is.

Mendez reminds Spock he is on trial and that he will answer any and all questions put to him. Spock tells Mendez that his answer would be quite unbelievable and that they will have to wait until they reach Talos to see it.

The court martial breaks once more, so that Pike can get some rest. When it resumes, the viewscreen reactivates.

Several more scenes with Vina in ever more provocative positions ensue, each an entirely different reality, complete in every detail.

Through the course of these events, Pike determines that the Talosians have severely weakened their world as a consequence of continual mental manipulation.

Pike and Vina are breeding stock to repopulate the planet.

The viewscreen cuts out once more, after another Orion slavegirl scene, and Mendez mentions that Orion women are beasts; like pure animals, vicious and seductive. It is said no Human male can resist them.

After this comment, the transmission resumes.

Having determined that strong primal emotions cancel out the Talosian ability to read his mind, Pike manages to take a Talosian magistrate hostage. He escapes with his crew and Vina to the surface.

Pike's first officer sets her weapon to overload, when the Talosians surround the surface group. The crew would rather die than become breeding stock on a desolate alien world.

The transmission decides this would be the ideal point to stop.

It does not immediately resume, nor after a period of time has passed. Apparently it is not going to.

Mendez speculates that the Talosians have abandoned Spock. He looks at the other captains, and asks for their verdict. Spock asks Pike to wait, telling him the Talosians can give him a chance of life, in a fully functional virtual form.

Kirk asks what kind of a life would it be, as a zoo specimen? Living the illusions that amuse his captors.

Spock disagrees with this assessment, saying that there is more to it than that. Sadly the viewscreen stays mockingly silent.

Commodore Mendez asks Pike if he considers Spock to be guilty of mutiny. Pike's chair answers in the affirmative -Spock is guilty. Mendez also votes Spock guilty, and finally, even Kirk has to agree, and vote his friend guilty of mutiny.

The scene fades out, and returns just as Enterprise is nestling into standard orbit around Talos 4. The trial is not officially over, and the bridge calls down to say that orbit is achieved.

Spock then drops the bombshell that that Talos controls the Enterprise, as they did before. As for Mendez' "Why?" He will see the answer now. With that, the viewscreen springs back into life.

Backing down under the threat of such self-sacrifice, the Talosians rethink this species' suitability for breeding, and decide it would be pointless to try.

Pike asks if mutual understanding or trade might not accomplish the restoration of the planet for the Talosians but is told that Humans would learn the Talosians' power of illusion and destroy themselves just as the Talosians had.

Pike and crew are free to go, but Vina, despite her attraction to Pike, says she cannot go with them. After the others transport aboard, the Talosians show Pike Vina's true appearance - underneath the Talosian illusions, her body is extremely badly deformed and disfigured. Parts of it do not even move correctly.

Vina was the only survivor from the crashed science vessel. Her body broken, the Talosians had to put her back together - without any idea what went where or why.

Functional, her body is far from usable, and it suffices only to keep her alive. Talosian mentally projected VR allows her to live out her life, productively and happily, as if her injury did not exist.

They did not want Pike for breeding stock to mate with her; they simply wanted other humans to be on the planet with her, give her life more meaning through that interaction. Hopwever, they did go about it an incredibly bad way.

The Talosians agree to take care of Vina and provide her with endless illusionary worlds, and an illusionary Pike to keep her company.

The transmissions cut off after it shows the Enterprise leaving orbit.

Kirk stands up, realising what Spock has done. Spock's purpose in bringing Pike back to Talos IV was to enable Pike to live out the rest of his days in the same way as Vina. Giving him back the body he lost in the accident, and a life to lead. The explanation also forms the basis of General Order 7 forbidding contact with Talos IV; to prevent Humans from learning the Talosians' power of illusion, before they are ready.

Kirk turns to Mendez to speak to him, only to blink in surprise as Mendez vanishes. Turning to Spock, stunned, for an explanation, Kirk's first syllables are interrupted by the viewscreen.

The Talosian magistrate who oversaw Pike thirteen years prior addresses Kirk, informing him that the commodore's presence on board the Enterprise and in the shuttlecraft from Starbase 11 was an illusion. The entire scenario had been orchestrated by Spock and the Talosians to keep the Enterprise crew from regaining control of the ship too soon.

The Keeper explains that Christopher Pike is welcome to spend the rest of his life with them, unfettered by his physical body. The decision, the Keeper tells Kirk, is his and Pike's. The viewscreen then fades out.

The trial is now null and void without three flag officers present, and a flabbergasted Kirk looks to Spock, trying to wrap round the right wording to tell Spock that whilst regulations were specific, Spock could have come to him and explained the situation.

Spock said it was enough for only one of them to have to face the death penalty, acknowledging Kirk would have disobeyed orders for him.

Uhura calls from the bridge; she has just received a puzzled transmission from the real Commodore Mendez at Starbase 11, who was sent the same images the trial was, plus a recording of the trial itself, with a very fake him in command.

Under the circumstances, General Order 7 is suspended. No actions are to be taken against Spock, Kirk is told to proceed as he thinks best.

Kirk asks Pike if the Talosian life is what he wants. Pike beeps back a single yes, held for a long period of time, showing probable emotional emphasis: he wants to go there.

Kirk asks Spock to take Captain Pike to the transporter room to see him off.

Spock thanks Kirk for both of them and Pike beeps again, dittoing Spock's sentiment.

As Spock begins to push Pike's wheelchair out of the courtroom Kirk asks Spock to come back and see him as soon as Pike is safely on the surface. Kirk wants to talk about this disturbing tendency Spock has had in showing flagrant emotionalism.

As Spock departs with Pike for the surface, the Magistrate shows Kirk a now seemingly restored Pike and Vina leaving hand-in-hand, with the greeting, "Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality; may you find your way as pleasant."

Topic Technicalities

As with part 1, The Menagerie takes on the topics of virtual reality from The Cage, and builds upon them. At first it relegates Pike to a quadriplegic state. Then it explains Vina in greater detail than the original episode did, and attempts to ram home hard that a purely virtual life can in some circumstances be as rewarding and real as a physical one.

"Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality; may you find your way as pleasant."

An impressive statement, considering VR at the time, was relegated almost solely to the lab.

Much less complex and convoluted than part one, part two is more to the point. The Talosians augmented the Enterprise's reality by making them think a person was there who wasn't. Short of directly shoving the Commodore (and who is going to do that), or getting a leg-up from him, there is no way of knowing he is fake: tactile contact can be simulated - its just nerve endings. Smell, sight, sound, all simulatable. Even the shadow he casts, is simulatable. Anything you pass him, can drop to the floor and a virtual duplicate take its place. When he passes it back, you take the virtual duplicate, and to you it feels real.

It is somewhat more complex than that in everyday interaction, but for the military trial scenario it was perfectly plausible. In average life use, you would eventually notice that some things were virtual, as you would try to put weight on them sooner or later, and here, in an augmented reality situation, they would fail. They would not fail in a virtual reality because there, your body is just as virtual as the objects.

An alternative scenario is that the replacement Commodore could have been a robot or humanoid waldo. This would work better as he could actually take and return physical objects, but with a whole new meaning to 'skinning'.

As to the virtual life, well, consider the two participants in this one.

Functional, her body is far from usable, and it suffices only to keep her alive. Talosian mentally projected VR allows her to live out her life, productively and happily, as if her injury did not exist.

A damaged brainstem renders his physical form unusable. Further internal damage renders much of it defunct, and requires a life support 24/7.

Both clearly benefit from the VR life immeasurably, gaining health, status and happiness back.

In fact a disability need not be this total before the VR becomes a lifesaver: Star Trek just used these examples as a sledgehammer to send the point home.

Any life for which a physical disability makes a social life of meaningful integrity impossible, that renders employment difficult, and projects a long-term feeling of exclusion and cumulative depression, benefits.

Any progressive wasting disease benefits. Even the most extreme cases of body dimorphism benefit.

A virtual life, is often better than the physical, when it provides clear, concrete advantages over the physical, for the individual concerned.

Part of Set

Star Trek: The Original Series

A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS, built up one by one in chronological order, regardless of the strength of their connection to VR & AR. Set included for the sake of completeness.

Star Trek: The Original Series, & VR

A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS which reference virtual reality, alternate lives, AI, or augmented reality. They are built up one by one in chronological order.

Staff Comments


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